For Leviathan, who I know has seen The Iron Giant.
"This is it, Little Chef. I'm finally going to see it!"
Linguini's enthusiasm is infectious. We're having a boys' night in of sorts: Colette's having a girls' night out and Linguini has been like a kid on caffeine all day, ever since he read in the TV guide that this evening they'd be showing The Iron Giant. "WOOHOO!" Linguini yelled at breakfast when he saw it, bouncing up and down.
"Huh?" I'd shrugged.
"Oh, Little Chef, if you'd been a human kid, you'd know! The Iron Giant is a classic American movie! It bombed in theaters, and it never got to Italy, but I heard about it! It's SO COOL! There's like this giant robot in it, and…"
As Linguini waxed lyrical, or what passes for lyrical with Linguini, I'd looked to Colette, who explained more calmly. "I've seen it. C'est un film magnifique." She gave us both a look. "You two, especially, should watch it," she said with a knowing smile. "I think…" Her eyes flit from me to him. "I'd really like to know what you think of it."
So here we are at 21 hours, armed with unsalted cashews and mineral water (soda and popcorn, in Linguini's case) sitting on the sofa watching a commercial for condoms, waiting for what Colette's told us, and Linguini's heard, is one of the most amazing movies ever.
As the final advertising jingle winds down and the word "Publicité" rolls across the screen to signal the end of the pre-movie commercials, my friend sits up straighter in his seat. His eyes come alight with childish delight as the opening credits roll, practically bouncing on the cushions. "Oh, wow! I've been waiting to see this movie for ages!"
Smiling at my friend's enthusiasm, I settle myself more comfortably on the sofa arm. Humans. Part of my fascination with watching movies comes not from the work of art itself but from my amazement at human ingenuity. Like this. Who would think of drawing hundreds and thousands of tiny pictures, each very slightly different from the other, and putting them all together to give the illusion of movement? Never mind color, music, all the other things that went into this strange and wondrous creation.
Linguini gasps at the first sight of the giant metal robot that lands from outer space on a dark and stormy night. Me, I'm still pondering the ingenuity of the human mind when the movie starts, and I'm sort of watching Linguini's reactions with one eye and glancing at the movie with the other. I never get too caught up in these things…
…and then, suddenly, I am.
There's something about that gigantic, vulnerable creature, lost in the world and needing a guide, a friend, that tugs at my heart and I don't know why. He can't speak so well, he has no direction, no purpose, his makers, whoever they are, have abandoned him in a strange land where he has to try to survive…
…and the little boy who doesn't fit in, who needs a friend too… I watch them meet, try to get past the fact that they can't speak to each other, try to find a common language. I watch him teaching him all about the world he lives in, how to manage, how to get along, find food and have a job, a purpose…
… but what really hits me hard as a punch in the chest, is the size difference. The human boy is tiny compared to the giant. If he's not careful, he'll crush him… crush him in his mighty hand when he lifts him…
I can't breathe.
"You OK, Little Chef?"
He's his friend… he'd never hurt him…
They obviously care about one another. They've got a lot to learn about size difference. I wonder how they show affection. Even a hug is a challenge. They've got a lot to learn…
"You…die?" the giant asks the kid.
"Well," Hogarth replies, "yeah…someday."
The giant goes on asking the kid, his teacher, about the realities of being alive. "I..die?"
Why does their plight hit me so hard? The realization that the kid will, must, age and die long before the giant is anywhere near the end of his lifespan… the heartbreak the big lug will feel at the inevitable death of his first and, in some ways, only friend… the desperate wish that the little guy could live as long as his bigger, stronger friend, live to grow old with him… the knowledge that it can never be…
Thankfully, a commercial break cuts in. I feel cold, shaky and in desperate need of reassurance. Cutting my eyes at Linguini, I see him glance at me, moved in the same inexplicable way that I am. He covers it, though, by staring hard at me – and it's not like my feelings were ever a secret from him. "You're looking funny, Little Chef," he says, concerned. "You OK?" he prods when I don't answer right away. "Hmm? You feeling all right?"
Seized by an urgency that's almost primal, I grab Linguini's shirt and haul myself up to stand on the rounded surface of his collarbone. One advantage of Linguini being a pencilneck, I can get my arms almost all of the way round his neck. I slide my hands around, my left rubbing his chin well above his Adam's apple, gently so as not to cut off his air, my right delving into the soft hair at his nape and massaging the back of his neck. With the ease of long practice, I nuzzle into the little indentation between neck and jawline, slipping my face into the soft skin just below his earlobe, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. My cheek presses close against his and I rub my wiry fur against the peach fuzz on his face, feeling the rasp of his stubble and the movement of his facial muscles as he smiles. I squeeze closer, rubbing back and forth against the yielding human flesh. His warmth seeps into and through me, calming me, and the curls of his hair tickle my face as his hands come up to pull me closer against him, warming me all through now, his fingers curling round me and rubbing my back. He murmurs contentedly and his vocal cords vibrate like a rubber band, making me giggle, the cocoon I'm in humming with reassurance, satisfaction, profound contentment. "Aw, Linguini." I exhale gustily as the moment passes – why I was so tense I don't know – and marvel at this friend who always knows exactly what I need. "I love ya, you know," I smile goofily.
He smiles more broadly, and the merest wisp of air reaches me as his lashes flutter closed too. "Ti amo, mio piccino," he murmurs. I feel so warm when he says that, but then he opens his mouth again. "I mean, I know you're not mine – it's just an expression – I didn't mean to imply—" With the ease born of long practice, I place a finger across his lips to shut him up before he can work himself into a filibuster, and he takes the hint and subsides, smiling sheepishly. "I just—yeah, love ya," he repeats simply.
I give him a nod of approval. No offense taken, I make him understand. Heck, I think of him as 'my' big guy just as he thinks of me as 'his' little one. That's what I love about my friendship with Linguini, I think as I lean into him. I belong to him, but he doesn't own me. Same with my family now, I guess—I hated it when Dad acted like I was clan property, and I love it now the world has fixed it so I belong with the clan but not to them. Belonging without ownership. How lucky can a guy get?
"The movie's back," Linguini rumbles, bringing me out of my warm reverie. Slowly, I exhale, slipping slightly downwards, not losing contact with the warm peach-fuzzed skin as I slide my back down his neck and settle into the little hollow made by his clavicle. (Yeah, I know it's called that – I'm working my way through Colette's library, and she's got quite a collection.) He leans back to make me more comfortable, his head propped on the back of the couch, his hand absently tracing patterns with one finger on my chest and shoulder.
I look up at the screen, watching the kid interact with this iron giant. No common language, size difference, culture difference, man, he doesn't even know his name.
And they can't hug.
Boy, have they got a lot to learn.